ALGERIA: Start of new academic year

Nearly 1,160,000 students have started the new academic year in Algeria, including 260,000 freshers, according to the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. But despite the assurances of the Minister, Rachid Haraouabia, La Tribune of Algiers questioned whether universities had the capacity to cater for so many students.

Algeria is in the process of introducing the European degree structure of three, five and eight years' higher education, known in French as LMD (licence-master-doctorat), and more than 110,000 new students or some 43%, will fit into the new system.

About 37% of the newcomers are enrolled in science, technology, natural and life sciences while the others are in humanities, languages and human sciences. Nearly two-thirds of the freshers are women.

Haraouabia said there were 113,510 extra student places along with two new auditoriums, 46 libraries, almost 83,000 housing units, 56 new student restaurants, and four new university centres at Mila, Ain Témouchent, Relizane and Tissemsilt, provided under the government's university development plan. There were 31,700 permanent teachers while almost 5,700 more lecturers would be recruited soon.

It was the quality of education, not the numbers, that was preoccupying the minister, said La Tribune. It reported his promise that each year 10% of lecturers would be sent "to the great universities and laboratories of the world" to find out about new technologies and update their knowledge in their academic fields.

La Tribune said the minister's optimism was contradicted by "the scepticism of those who always dispute the high number of students. This problem returns every year in nearly all the country's universities, confirmed by the difficult conditions of university teaching in Algeria", the paper said.